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Artifact # 2 Teachers’ Right and Responsibilities 1

Artifact # 2

Teachers’ Rights and Responsibilities

Jordan Meyers

College of Southern Nevada

EDU 210 Nevada School Law

September 8, 2015
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Ann Griffin was a white tenured teacher at a high school composed of mostly black

students. During an intense discussion with Principal Freddie Watts and Assistant Principal

Jimmy Brothers, both of whom are African-American, Griffin commented that she “hated all

black folks”. Colleagues both black and white reacted negatively to news of the teacher’s

statement. Principal Watts advocated dismissing the teacher, citing issues regarding

competency, judgment, and whether or not she would treat students fairly.

Loeffelman v. Board of Education of the Crystal City School District (2004) is the first

case presented to support the recommendation for dismissal of Ann Griffin due to questions of

the teacher’s competency, judgement, and whether or not she would treat students fairly. A

student in Jendra Loeffelman’s eighth-grade English class at Crystal City Elementary School

asked her teacher for her opinion on interracial relationships, to which the plaintiff not only

voiced her opposition but offered that mixed race couples should be “fixed” so as to not have

“racially confused” children (Loeffelman v. Board of Education of the Crystal City School

District, 2004). The school board decided to terminate Ms. Loeffelman for violation of

contractually agreed-upon policies regarding discrimination and derogatory expression.

Loeffelman in turn filed a lawsuit against the school board on the grounds that her free speech

rights on a matter of community concern were violated. In Loeffelman v. Board of Education of

the Crystal City School District, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the school board’s

opinion that Ms. Loeffelman’s comments were not only discriminatory but of a private nature,

and therefore not protected as free speech in regards to matters of public concern. The decision

in Loeffelman v. Board of Education of the Crystal City School District offers adequate support

for Principal Watts’ recommendation of termination for Ann Griffin. Poor judgement was
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shown by Griffin in her speech used with colleagues, and her comments of a private nature had

the capacity to inadvertently alienate not only other teachers and administrative staff but a

majority of the student body. Such potential disruption of normal school operations

demonstrated a lack of competency on behalf of Ms. Griffin.

The second case to support the recommendation for dismissal of Ann Griffin due to

questions of the teacher’s competency, judgement, and whether or not she would treat students

fairly is Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988). Principal Robert E. Reynolds objected

to publishing articles relating to divorce, birth control, and student pregnancies in the Hazelwood

East High School’s newspaper the Spectrum. Although the girls in the pregnancy article were

given anonymity, Reynolds still felt that in such a small school the students could still be

identified. Reynolds was also concerned that the topics of teenage pregnancy and birth control

were inappropriate for younger readers, and also had issues with the divorce article’s lack of

anonymity. Without informing the paper’s staff, the principal removed the offending articles

prior to publication. The members of Spectrum claimed the deletion of articles from the paper

violated their First Amendment rights. In Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988), the

United States Supreme Court held that a school-sponsored newspaper could be censored if its

message was at odds with the “shared values of a civilized social order” (Hazelwood School

District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988). Inclusion of personal articles in a school paper meant to align with

that institution’s values could damage reputations of students, strain their familial relationships,

and throw an orderly school environment into confusion. In a comparable manner, Ann Griffin’s

discriminatory speech showed a blatant disregard for her school’s values and the essential

constituents of the school, i.e. fellow staff and students.


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Conversely, the case of Smith v. Novato Unified School District (2007) could provide

evidence against the recommendation for dismissal of Ann Griffin by Principal Freddie Watts.

Andrew Smith, a high school senior at Novato High School wrote a controversial opinion piece

against illegal immigration in the school newspaper the Buzz. A couple of days later, school

principal Lisa Schwartz and two vice-principals met with over one hundred upset parents and

students to discuss their feelings about Smith’s article. Remaining copies of this particular issue

of the Buzz were recalled, but the uproar didn’t stop there. Smith received threats of violence

and got in a physical altercation with a Latino student. In spite of the controversy surrounding

the article entitled “Immigration”, the plaintiff was then allowed to write “Reverse Racism” for

the Buzz. Before publication, however, the students voted to push the article to a later issue.

When “Reverse Racism” finally made its way to the Buzz three months later, Smith took legal

action claiming violation of his freedom of speech. The trial court did not rule in his favor but in

Smith v. Novato Unified School District (2007), the court of appeals reversed their decision and

concluded that Smith’s speech was protected because he didn’t intend to incite violence or

disorder. Ann Griffin’s speech also didn’t intend to incite disruption within the school, but was

merely of a personal, albeit offensive nature and was therefore not grounds for termination due to

incompetency, poor judgement, or unfair treatment of students.

The second case to present evidence against the recommendation for dismissal of Ann

Griffin is Rankin v. Mcpherson (1987). Ardith McPherson held a clerical position as a deputy in

the office of the Constable of Harris County, Texas, and as such was not an officer of the peace

who worked with the public. After McPherson and some other employees heard the news of the

assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan, McPherson commented “If they go for

him again, I hope they hit him.” (Rankin v. McPherson, 1987). McPherson’s comment was
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reported by another deputy to Constable Rankin, which led to her termination. The Supreme

Court decided that McPherson’s speech was still protected because the conversation in question

took place in private between employees and was a legitimate matter of public concern. The

Court also felt that because McPherson was a government worker who didn’t work directly with

the public that her statement would have little to no negative bearing on the public’s perception

of the Constable’s office. Ann Griffin’s private speech, though not of sound moral character or

community concern, would not have necessarily meant she was devoid of good judgment,

competency, or fairness in her treatment of students.

I would ultimately agree with Principal Watts’ recommendation for dismissal of Ann

Griffin. Loeffelman v. Board of Education of the Crystal City School District (2004)

demonstrated just how a teacher not speaking in the appropriate manner of a public servant could

have repercussions far outside of the time and place the speech was made. Surely Ann Griffin

should have been aware of what sort of conversation is legally allowed on school grounds

regardless of whether it occurs with other adults or with students. In Hazelwood School District

v. Kuhlmeier (1988), the Supreme Court concluded that expression which doesn’t merely offend

but rather has the potential to disrupt the social order of a school doesn’t qualify as protected

speech. Ann Griffin, knowing the culture, values, and social makeup of her school, should have

realized that her choice of words was not a slight offense to be brushed aside but instead a

damaging action that warrants severe punishment including dismissal.


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References
HAZELWOOD SCH. DIST. v. KUHLMEIER 484 U.S. 260 (1988). (n.d.). Retrieved September
9, 2015
https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/484/260/case.html

LOEFFELMAN v. BOARD OF EDUC. 134 S.W.3d 637 (2004). (n.d.). Retrieved September 8,
2015
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mo-court-of-appeals/1109760.html

RANKIN. v. McPHERSON 483 U.S. 378 (1987). (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2015
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/rankin.html

SMITH V. NOVATO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT 150 CAL.APP.4TH 1439 (2007). (n.d.).
Retrieved September 9, 2015
http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1443339.html
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